Horse racing is a sport that involves horses competing in a race over a specific course of a set distance. The horses are guided by jockeys who ride them. They may jump hurdles or fences and the race is often won by whichever horse crosses the finish line first. The sport is regulated by national and international organizations that enforce standards of safety, fairness and honesty.
Before the race begins, horses are positioned in their stalls or behind a gate. Then the gates open and the race starts. Some races also have a flag to signal the start of the race.
In the early days of horse races, owners would wager against each other, and the winner was determined by the owner who provided the most money to the purse. These agreements were recorded by disinterested third parties who came to be known as keepers of the match book. If an owner withdrew from the race, they forfeited half the purse and bets were based on that amount.
The modern rules of horse racing were largely established by the British. Before that time, individual races were organized by different localities but the sport had little standardized rules. The first official races were run in 1651 as a result of a wager between two noblemen. The original King’s Plates were for six-year-olds carrying 168 pounds in four-mile heats and it took two victories to be declared the winner. In 1751, five-year-olds were admitted to the races and weights were reduced to 126 pounds for a 4-mile race.
In addition to being a fun and thrilling spectator sport, horse racing has been an important part of the economy in many countries. It has helped boost tourism and other industries, such as food processing. It has also provided jobs for thousands of people. However, the industry is declining. In the United States, attendance at the top thoroughbred racetracks has dropped significantly over the past several years. Grandstands that once held thousands now hold dozens of spectators.
Some critics argue that horse-race coverage is trivial, but the sport remains a major source of entertainment and a popular form of gambling. It is a great way to showcase the talent and skill of jockeys and horses. In recent years, technological advances have greatly improved the safety and health of horses on and off the track. Veterinary advancements such as thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners and endoscopes allow trainers to spot minor issues before they worsen. 3D printing has also made it possible to produce casts, splints and prosthetics for injured horses. These innovations help keep horse races as competitive and safe as possible.